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4.4 out of 5 stars113
4.4 out of 5 stars
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A quote on the box describes A Prophet as ''Scarface meets the Godfather''; I think a more accurate description would be Scarface meets The Shawshank redemption. An even more accurate description still would be Scarface meets Scum.

The story follows a young man, thrown into Jail at the tender age of 19 - rejected by most of the prison gangs he eventually finds a home of sorts amongst a group of Mafioso; who tolerate him rather than embrace him. He spends his time doing chores for the gang and cultivating his mind, before eventually rising to power for himself.

As you'd imaging there are some rather brutal scenes in this film, but it is not through violence our hero rises to power. It's more through clever navigation of prison politics and knowing when to pick a fight and with who. Violence is not the main thrust here. The film is far cleverer than that, and you'll really have to watch and pay attention to understand what's going on.

Both I and my flat mate were glued to the TV last night as this epic unfolded - cursing the fact that we couldn't pull our eyes away or switch it off, despite its 155minute running time keeping us up well past our bedtime. The story, in this sense also, is just like scarface - epic - spanning many years and taking its time to unfold.

The way the story is told is excellent - with plans being set in motion and names dropped well in advance of exciting outcomes and anything happening - and I suspect it'll be even better on a second viewing. The acting is excellent, and you really like, admire, and feel for the star as his predicaments arise one after the other. You can taste the tension, and moments - particularly at the start - are terrifying, as you try to imagine what on earth you'd do if put in his situation.

I've given this film 4 stars - although it is equally deserving of 5 - I wouldn't argue with anyone who gave it 5, but for me the reality of the way it was shot and acted just meant it lacked something for me when it came to viewing pleasure. It was like watching real life and not a film - so in that sense, it wasn't as enjoyable for me as it could have been. Never the less - I thought it was great and would really recommend it to anyone thinking of buying it. I'll probably watch it again very soon, knowing what to expect, and then come back and change my score to 5 - but for now it remains a 4. I know my flat mate would have given it a 5 stars. After 15 minutes he was in awe of it.

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on 16 June 2013
A young man from North Africa is incarcerated in a French prison and learns his trade as a lackey, to a nasty Corsican crime boss. Whilst there he also makes himself useful to rival gangs of muslims along with building other friendships, not purely based around survival or business, and unbeknownst to the authorities, that he's committed murder and has started running a hashish trade from the prison, he is seen as a model prisoner and is released on day trips. In which he gets up to even more mischief, either on behalf of the Corsicans or for himself. All the while he suffers visions and is tormented by a man he killed...

Very well made French prison drama, with organized crime elements. The performances are excellent and although hardly an action fest, it does have a number of violent moments and on the whole is certainly not a dull film, given it's length of two and a half hours. The narrative style and french language may confuse some but overall the story isn't a particularly convoluted or tricky one to follow.
Granted, there's much better gangster thrillers out there where outcasts start at the bottom and work their way up, and if this interests you I would say other than the obvious films, you've no doubt already seen, read Carlito's Way and After Hours by Edwin Torres. There's also much better prison dramas, again one that's excellent and lesser seen is probably A Sense Of Freedom, but with all that said I certainly enjoyed 'A Prophet'.
The print is what you would expect from a new film. Bare bones disc though.
4.25/5 rounded down.
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on 3 January 2011
Films like Un Prophete don't come about very often, but when they do, they can hardly afford to be missed. I didn't really know much about this film as I picked it up on the basis of a very strong recommendation from a lot of people, with a few likenesses banded about comparing it to The Godfather and Scarface. It was only when I read the comment from FHM on the box that I realised these comparisons were hardly original, seeing as they were written on the box.

I don't think that Un Prophete is adequately described by those similes, as it stands up perfectly well on its own two feet. The most important fact that isn't obvious from those recommendations is that this is essentially a prison drama. Instead of telling an epic Disney-style story of The Shawshank Redemption, this film owes far more to the grimy realism of Taxi Driver, complete with the violence that is enough to make most people squirm a little in a couple of places early on in the film.

The whole film is a masterpiece to behold. I wouldn't necessarily call it a film to enjoy; it's not the sort of thing to watch with a bowl of popcorn in between a couple on a romantic night in. The acting leads are understatedly brilliant. I almost didn't notice the acting, simply because they drew me right into their world (even though one of the lead characters does look very much like Antony Worral Thompson). Every time I though the film was about to run out of steam, the director manages to pace the film perfectly, keeping me interested and immersed into the Machievellian power play being drawn out by the two leads, watching the shift in power, which culminates in a brilliant scene at the end, which has no audible dialogue but whose images convey flawlessly the shift in power and the usurping of the king.
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on 5 August 2013
It's four stars only because Iv'e been a bit over fussy with it.There were times I thought the plot could have "hurried up" a bit.On reflection though the film needed time to develop and if I was to watch it again,I would revise the rating to a 5.It's a very well made movie,the main characters are strong personalities and very believable.I wouldn't say all the violence is necessary in it.Yet it's pertinent to the evolving story.Another reviewer said it came over as documentary style.I don't subscribe to that,rather it's seen through the eyes of the main character.This is where you feel that empathy with him.You fully understand what he does and why there is the need to do it.In other words you live those moments with him.Particularly his first year in prison,you can experience the desperation and hopelessness he feels.And at the end he only views his present circumstances in a businesslike manner.He had survived and conquered his demons.
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on 31 December 2015
A must-see for all that love the mob genre. Don't be mislead, the movie is anything like the Godfather or Scarface. Director Audiard rather takes a prison-drama that takes place in modern day France, mixes in cultural and historical elements unfamiliar to the vast majority (by this I mean the Corsican-Arab background of the lead actor but not just), sheds light on the high level of corruption plaguing the failed prison system and brings out a supreme struggle for survival and control. All of this the lowest echelons of society. It is gripping tale of organised crime that is unparalleled, not so much because of it's storyline but because of it's peculiar settings, second to none acting, bold script and thorough character development.
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on 14 February 2011
The FHM quote on the box which likens A PROPHET to Scarface and The Godfather is quite simply ridiculous. This French prison film is a million miles from the star-studded world of Hollywood method acting. Instead, director Jacques Audiard goes for something a little more beguiling and poetic with an almost entirely unknown cast of actors. That's right, a poetic prison movie. He achieves this by inserting dream sequences and other non-realistic devices which steer the action away from generic prison film formulas. While A PROPHET has its testosterone-fuelled moments of brutual violence, it spends as much time slowly building up a complex identity for its main character Malik who is as vulnerable as he is violent. We see him walking the tightrope between the Corsican and Arab factions in the prison, learning the art of survival in a violent environment where to be an outsider - which is essentially what he is - is to be a victim. The film was awarded a major prize at the Cannes film festival in 2009, which is more than a little surprising since it's not a major artistic achievement; nevertheless, it's a darn sight more thought-provoking than most prison movies. The blu-ray transfer is pretty good too.
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Malik (Tahar Rahim) goes to prison. He is of mixed French-Arab descent and can speak both languages. He is recruited (forced) to do a job for Cesar (Niels Arestrup) a Corsican crime boss. He works his way up, but his loyalty is to himself. He also does some "free lance" crime work for the Arabs to the dismay of Cesar. This results in problems but Malik has the street smarts to navigate through the whole thing.

This is one of the better prison crime dramas I have seen. It seemed extremely realistic, although to be honest I have never been to a French prison. The subtitles wasn't so much as an issue as was the length of the film: 155 minutes. I was well into the film before I realized how long it was. If you use the first fast forward speed the subtitles still appear.

F-bomb, sex, nudity (male and female) some homosexual references, killing and blood.
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on 7 November 2014
I like the Director which led me to this film. I work in Forensic Mental Health so ther was a lot that was familiar to me and I learnt a few things as well. I liked the allegorical element of the film and also it was nice to see Anthony Worrall-Thompson showing he's lost none of his culinary skills with a tea spoon in the role of Caesar.
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on 6 June 2011
Possibly one of the best films I have ever seen (and I have seen thousands). It deals with the rivalry of two unlikely pillars of French culture - the Corsican mafia (portrayed by Niels Arestrup, a giant of an actor, as a withering godfather) and and a young Algerian (Malik El-Djebena, also magnificent) who reluctantly rises through the ranks of the Muslim prison hierarchy. Guess who wins. It is long, but not a minute could be cut. Not always easy to watch, but then we've been anesthetized by French films in which two humans in a relationship is said to constitute plot for a long time, so we're ready for substance. A masterpiece. Again, welcome back France - it seems multi-culty is good for you, like it or not.
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on 6 September 2012
I don't like gangster and prison movies as a genre, and the only thing that sets this movie apart from other such movies is Tahar Rahim's fantastic performance. Just discovering him made this movie definitely worth watching. Otherwise, it's not a particularly great or even interesting movie.

Unlike The Godfather, for example, this movie does not transcend its genre and become deeply rewarding far beyond a gangster movie. I loved Godfather despite its being a gangster movie, but A Prophet doesn't rise above its material.

Also (and this may seem petty, but it's my review so I can write whatever I want to), there's a really annoying song about midway through by some singer doing a Bob Dylan imitation. Another reviewer thought it WAS Dylan and praised the movie for using his song, but that person must never have heard the real thing. Maybe to French ears it sounds like Dylan, and the singer obviously is trying really hard to pull it off, but it just made me extremely angry.

It's not even a copycat singer singing a Dylan song - it's a fake Dylan singing a song he made up to sound like a Dylan song. How dare he? and how dare they give him an international venue for his plagiarism? If they want a Dylan song, dig up the cash and use a real one, not a cheap fake. I'm still angry about that.

So I recommend this movie ONLY for Rahim's fantastic performance. I'm going to watch whatever other movies with him are available and hope they have something to offer in addition to him, because great acting in mediocre movies only goes so far.
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